Ripper: East End acid murderer driven by Angel lust

The case of a Jewish umbrella salesman convicted of murdering a pregnant housewife was revisited this week - 124 years after he was hanged for the crime.

In a heated debate at the Whitechapel Society in Aldgate, just minutes from the site of the murder, a modern-day jury heard the case against Israel Lipski, a near-penniless 22-year-old who had emigrated from Poland in 1885.

On a Tuesday morning in June 1887, Miriam Angel, 22, was found dead. She was frothing at the mouth with a yellow substance, which detectives later said was nitric acid that had been poured down her throat. The door to her room was locked on the inside and Lipski was found unconscious under Mrs Angel's bed, with acid burns in his mouth.

Both were boarders in a house in the heavily Polish-Jewish Commercial Road area.

Lipski blamed his two recently-hired employees, Isaac Schmuss and Simon Rosenbloom. But despite questions over the evidence, and interventions by rabbis and MPs, he was convicted, and hanged that August.

The night before he was executed, he "confessed". He said his intention had been theft and that he had used the acid, not to kill Mrs Angel, but to make her lose consciousness.

Lipski said: "I bought the pennyworth of aquafortis that morning, for the purpose of putting an end to my life". In a signed statement he said: "I, Israel Lipski, before I appear before God in judgment, desire to speak the whole truth concerning the crime of which I am accused. I will not die with a lie on my lips."

This week, Whitechapel Society chairman William Beadle questioned the worth of a confession made on the eve of a hanging, adding that many witnesses, including Lipski, spoke only Yiddish.

But writer Mark Ripper argued that "lust" was the motive, and alleged Lipski had attempted to rape Mrs Angel. The Whitechapel Society "jury" was swayed by both arguments, voting equally for guilty and not guilty - with four abstentions.

The JC of 1887 followed the case closely, at first urging the Home Office to reconsider. But it then decided that Lipski's confession was convincing. A JC reporter wrote: "It is satisfactory to reflect that Lipski was at last made conscious of the additional sin he was committing, in his attempt to escape the consequences of his crime by imputing it to others."

As the JC noted at the time, the case was "painful" for the Jewish community, because "the only alternative to Lipski's guilt was that of two other Jews".

    Last updated: 2:19pm, June 10 2011